A Story of Serendipity

as told by Kelly Petrie, owner of Maitri Center

When you visit the Maitri Center, you will notice this painting of Truman the sea turtle gracing the walls. His home at the center is truly a story of serendipity at its finest!

The painting was created by my talented longtime friend, Toril Booker-Fisher, who I have always admired as a role model of compassion and generosity. She embodies maitri to the fullest! She painted Truman as part of what she calls her Wallflower Series of Endangered Species. He is one of many stunning pieces featuring endangered animals represented against a backdrop of floral “wallpaper”.

This past July, Toril displayed her beautiful work at the Art Fair on the Square in Madison. I was in Boulder teaching at Naropa University at the time, so I missed seeing her and her work. My husband, Glenn, however, stopped at her booth to say hello and secretly purchased this painting to give to me for Christmas. I had no clue whatsoever. And neither of us had a clue that I would be opening a mindfulness center this fall.

Fast forward to early October when I acquired my new business space by complete happenstance (which at that time was a blank slate). I invited my friend and yoga mentor, Stephanie Shong, and her young daughter to come see it and help me envision decorating possibilities. As Stephanie and I were looking at paint chips and discussing ideas, her daughter “swam” along the big, wide-open floor pretending to be a sea turtle. It was incredibly charming, but my husband knew nothing of this happening.

A week or so later, Toril and her husband came to visit us from Sheboygan and secretly brought the painting with them to give to Glenn. At this point, he decided not to wait until Christmas, but gave it to me early because he thought I might like to consider it for my new space. I was completely surprised!

After letting it sink in a bit, and remembering my little friend's imaginary play, I felt like there was something really special about sea turtles showing up in my world unexpectedly like this. So I became curious and looked up the symbolic meaning of sea turtles. I found this lovely description from https://www.tanyacasteel.com/project/sea-turtle/:

Sea Turtle symbolizes longevity, peace, grounding, ancient wisdom, and emotional strength.

Turtle carries the world on its back, grounding it wherever it goes.

Turtle is determined and persistent as it slowly moves on land, steadily evolving physically.

By slowing down and pacing yourself you can endure the chaos of life’s transformational cycles with ease.

Turtle moves swiftly through water, learning to navigate its sensitivity to others’ emotions.

At times it can feel like an emotional tsunami as you navigate through the deep waters of the world’s emotions.

By practicing non-attachment, you can be at peace with your own path and appreciate all aspects of yourself.

Keeping a steadfast mind will bring confidence and calm to your emotional state, as well as peace and acceptance to your unique path.

"Being at peace with your own path and appreciating all aspects of yourself" ... this is maitri! Wow!

I also found this online:

The turtle symbolism is characterized by the association with the Earth and earth symbols of groundedness and patience. For the native Hawaiian, it is said that the Turtle carried the weight of that continent on her back. The turtle totem means you have an affinity with the ancient wisdom of the earth. You are naturally tuned into the elements, land, people, and animals.

Another big wow! As part of the Contemplative Education program at Naropa University, we study in depth something known as Maitri Space Awareness, which in a nut shell has to do with the elemental wisdom of earth, water, fire, wind, and space!

And so, it felt like Truman was truly called to have a home at the Maitri Center. As a result, I felt inspired to create an earthy, nature-like feel to the space. Nature’s healing qualities are so incredibly important to our wellbeing, and Truman serves to remind us of our innate wisdom to love, care for, and protect all beings - including ourselves. When we truly care for ourselves, it makes it a whole lot easier to extend maitri to others.

Upon sharing this story of Truman, many people have reached out to tell me their personal connection to sea turtles. I invite you to share your stories and strengthen the significance and sacredness of our interconnectedness!

For more information about Toril's artwork, please visit her facebook page. Her recent Divine Ambiguity series will touch a tender and raw place in your heart. If you happen to visit Sheboygan and want to see her work in person, schedule a private showing at her in-home gallery, stay in her onsite Airbnb, and savor time spent with this incredible human being!